5 Ways To Calm Disruptive Children in Schools

When kids realise that someone is rooting for them and you hold to your beliefs…because you KNOW that they can…you carry that belief and ‘act as if’ because…one day they too will begin to believe and they will …because they can!

▪ One in Four (26%) young people in the UK experience suicidal thoughts[i]
▪ ChildLine (UK) has revealed that it held 34,517 counselling sessions in 2013/14 with children who talked about suicide – a 116 percent increase since 2010/11.[ii]
▪ Among teenagers, rates of depression and anxiety have increased by 70% in the past 25 years, particularly since the mid 1980’s.[iii]
▪ The number of children and young people who have presented to A&E with a psychiatric condition have more than doubled since 2009. (8,358 in 10/11; 17,278 in 13/14)[iv]
▪ 55% of children who have been bullied later developed depression as adults[v]
▪ 45% of children and young people under the age of 18 detained under s.136 were taken to police custody in 2012/13[vi
Why is this set of data important to us?
What impact could this have on our schools or our children?

Well, often times we might find ourselves reacting to something that’s already happened, but what plans do we have in place to prevent possible problems?
In other words, if we don’t yet have a problem, when will we know that it has become a problem and what will we do if it does become a problem?

Considering that 25% of teachers, according to a recent survey, said that difficult behaviour made them consider leaving teaching, it is worth looking at how we can encourage positivity and productivity in our classrooms. After all, a classroom is hardly going to be productive if there is a high volume of disruptive behaviour taking place.

A school will also do well to consider its triple P Powers (purpose, potential, plan).

Why Am I Here? What’s The Highest Point of My Intention for My Role? Whose Purpose Am I Serving and Does It Extend To The ‘Greater Good’?

How Do I Know That I Can Do This? What Skills Will I Need? What Tools Do I Already Have? Are They Being Utilized?

What’s My Strategy? What Plan Of Action (#stepbystep)? What’s Achievable and Realistic For Now? How Will I Know The Plan’s Working? What’s My Expected Outcome?

Although there are a variety of factors which could affect the smooth flow of activities within schools, there are some simple techniques/practices which could help alleviate any negative impact or even prevent them.


1. SET CLEAR EXPECTATIONS – (including Consequences and Rewards)
Rules, are of course an everyday part of life which helps the world to function effectively. Without any rules whatsoever, there would surely be chaos and confusion. Likewise, pupils like to have boundaries in order to feel safe and from time to time, they  might also like to check how secure the boundaries truly are.
#When one already knows what is and isn’t expected, it makes it far easier to choose and make informed decisions.
#When a rule isn’t followed through and a consequence is then rolled into motion, the excuse of, “I didn’t know,” will clearly be invalid. On the other hand, you are likely to be unsuccessful at achieving the criteria – especially if you don’t know what the criteria is!


2. BE CALM– (which prevents a storm)
One of the most common ‘trip hazards’ that adults  get entangled with, is losing their cool and entering into a shouting match with ‘unruly’ pupils. Can a mouthful of spicy chillies be doused by a handful of blazing coal? The calmer you are, even in the most heated situations, the clearer you can think and the more likely the chance of getting the other parties involved to calm down too.

– Teacher behaviour affects pupil behaviour. Tender your plants and feed what you’d like to see grow



Mice can have a litter of 3-14 within 19-21 days but an elephant waits two years to give birth to just one baby. Change….takes place over a period of time and it varies from situ to situ.
One main factor of achieving the desired outcome of this change is to definitely stay committed and consistent. Ensure that your purpose is clear, you say what you mean and you absolutely mean what you say that you mean.

E.g. A pupil is being disruptive by shouting out in class and distracting others.
“If you do not complete your learning task within the session, you will stay in for part of your break time.”
(When the pupil doesn’t take responsibility for their learning by not completing it during the session, is he kept in for a portion of his break time?)

E.g. The school decides to give out certificates if Home learning is done each week.
(What motivation do the pupils have if it’s carried out one week but not the next?
(What if some teachers adhere to a policy while some remain indifferent to it?)
When the whole school adopts or fully buys into a policy and participates actively, continuity and consistency will have a huge impact on behaviour too.


A good technician is well equipped with tools he knows to use well.
These are some of the most useful tools you could have in your behaviour control treasure chest:
* A listening ear – In order to resolve issues effectively, it’s not just good to hear, but to truly listen. Taking the time to do this will enable your pupils to feel a sense of justice as someone has ‘heard their case’. Listening, makes you aware of needs.
Good listening also minimizes misconceptions, misinterpretation and misunderstanding which is sometimes the cause for further disruptive behaviour.
#Remember to never assume that what you’re assuming is always correct.
*Relevance and up-to-date information : ‘having beef’ with someone (to a 9 year-old) doesn’t necessarily mean sitting down and having lunch with their favourite friend but rather that there’s a fight brewing. Being in the know with these language codes, could quite possibly quash a tornado before it’s risen to the heights of the sky – innit bruv? That’s so jarring!
*Hakalau – this amazing breathing technique has been a positive lifesaver and is especially useful to help children calm down quickly. It simply involves taking deep breaths in to the count of 8 and then breathing out in 4 sharp breaths.



Effective communication is the key to building strong, healthy and lasting relationships. So let’s talk Lingua Lingua – and changing our speech and sandwich culture.
A great communication system to employ (which has been my rescue wand on so many occasions) is the Feedback Sandwich. Like any ordinary sandwich it carries the concept of bread-filling-bread with the main difference of course that we instead use words.
Bread: What was good…meat/filling: what would make it even better….bread: what was great overall.

E.g. (Action): during independent task, pupil gets out of seat to go over to other pupil and points out what answers to a maths problem should be.
Instead of, “Sit down!”…”Get back to your seat now!” or even, “What do you think you’re doing!?”, a good sandwich might be:
“Hey Tom, it’s lovely that you care enough about your friend to want to see them doing well, but it would help even more if you allowed him to work out the answer himself so that he can really learn the methods and not be dependent on anyone else the next time he sees a similar question. Well done for already calculating your own answer and showing such great friendship skills. Now thank you for getting back to your seat sensibly please.”

E.g. (Action that poses safety risk): a child swinging on his chair during lesson.
Response: Wow, J, that’s some fantastic acrobatic balancing skills you’ve got there but especially for the safety aspects, it would be great to see all four legs of your chair on the floor. Well done for correcting that action quickly and completing your learning task in time.

E.g. Through written/verbal feedback about task : “It was really great to see that you completed the task and you will do even better when you have revised your times tables. Just like Tesco, ‘every little helps’ so keep practicing and your ‘little’ will soon become ‘a lot’. I can hardly wait to see this. Awesome job on the 9 answers you got correct!”
Sometimes re-framing techniques can be coupled with these too for effectively feeding back and creating a more positive perspective than the one already displayed by the pupil.


Sample Re-framing Techniques:
The child has already framed a situation and we can assist by helping them to see their picture in a different frame.
E.g. Miss I’m not clever, I only got 9 out of 20.
Re-frame: Are you kidding me? I’m dancing because you got 3 more correct than last time! Yippee!

E.g. child wanting to tear out page because they’re not happy with their accomplishments.
How about instead, “You know what Sam, we both know that this isn’t your usual neat work. If I were you, I would leave it in to remind me what not to do next time. After all, we learn from our mistakes too right? Come to think of it, when you have it there to remind you and you consider that you had to stay in at playtime and do it properly instead of having fun with your friends outside, I’m sure that you’ll choose to do it neatly in the first place right?”

Re-framing with jest and jibe (of course with a hint of the dramatic): “Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness goodness me. A very alien alien has taken over Sam’s fingers and written scribble-do in his book. Please please Mr Alien alien, we need our Sam back. Yes, yes the Sam with the fantastic writing. The Sam who does his best. The Sam who never gives up. The Sam who will finish an awesome piece of learning for Miss K to look at and smile…because it’s done so well. Come back Saaaaam!”
Re-framing(for a child who’s writing is usually hardly recognisable but somehow has written ONE perfect letter)
Instead of,”Your writing is just so awful!”

“Wow! Can you look at that!? Look at that! Jean, did you really write that letter? Are you sure you did that ALL by yourself? Wow, that is soooo amazing! I’ll know if it’s really good when I have a little taste. (Scoop the letter/letters off the page and ‘taste’ then make another fuss.) Wow oh wow, that’s so yummy! More please, more please, write some more!”
Or for a child who’s finding it a challenge/losing focus during maths task, “I can’t do it Miss.”
(Same exaggeration)

“Wow! Can you look at that!? Look at that! Jean, did you really work that sum out? Are you sure you did that ALL by yourself? Wow, you know what, it would be amazing to see how you’re going to work out the next one – I’m sure you can too because you did that first one so well.” (When they do, perhaps add…) “I’m just really blown away at your awesome skills, you’ll be a whiz at this in no time at all. Fantastic!”

The thing is that children are being hypnotised each and every day by our very actions and especially our words. It takes a strong mind -like that of The Little Engine – to overcome echoes of, “You won’t get there. You can’t do it. You’ll never be good enough. It’s too hard for you.” in order to voice instead,”I think I can. I believe I can. I know I can. I cannot fail…unless I decide not to give success a chance.”

I WILL MAKE IT! I have the right attitude. I have the right tools. I have the right helpers. My goal is in sight. Success…is in me…
So if we are indeed hypnotising our children, wouldn’t it be great if we prefer to influence and programme good choices?

We care about data. We care about stats and what they portray to others in our society.
Will our children be able to showcase and be their best if the best possible environment is not provided for their well being? Learning, after all, is not just about manipulating numbers or reciting all the letters of the alphabet. Outward behaviour is just the product and evidence of what goes on in the thought processes. Of course, more opportunities for learning will be accessible when we first appreciate and help our children to take care of the greatest asset available to us all…our mind.


By Pheonia Bailey

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

16 comments on “5 Ways To Calm Disruptive Children in Schools

  1. Ruth Johnson on said:

    Your newspaper-like headlines of statistics drew me in instantly. I was disappointed not to have seen the evidence or referencing for these statistics. The NLP question that popped into my mind was “According to whom?” As you have relied on these statistics to underpin your article it would add so much more credibility to it to include your references.

    In playing ‘devils advocate’ somewhat, I’d also like to challenge the idea that disruption in the classroom is coupled with an increase in suicide/anxiety/depression. How do we know that these areas are connected? Of course it makes sense that if you are upset in some way it would affect your focus but I feel there needs to be a stronger thread to tie it together. My concern is that others may argue that disruptive pupils could just as much be related to poor teaching, rather than issues the pupils are experiencing in their personal lives.

    Your analogies work well and I do feel you could build on these even further. I suspect that your article could be considerably longer as you seem to have a great deal of knowledge and experience in this area.

    Something about how this article is structured made it feel chaotic to read, at least initially. It was as if there were so many issues to address, I felt overwhelmed. I’m not sure if this was intentional -I became distracted by all of the different threads and my mind seemed to represent the disruptive classroom in the first 1/3 of the piece. In my opinion it would have worked better to have offered calmness, good order and structure as I suspect that those reading the article could well be teachers who have just encountered a day of chaos!

    You would have some work to do in convincing teachers to use the feedback sandwich you have suggested, as this would without question, require more work from them in an environment where they are already pushed for time.

    Do consider adapting the structure to make it flow better initially and to also include more of the keywords you want to be associated with.

    After all of these thoughts, it then struck me; your impressive suggestions of Hakalau, the feedback sandwich and reframing (solid NLP methods) had moved me from the chaos that was created at the start of the read, into the calm state you had wanted me to experience all along. In particular, your reframing was fun, light and gave real, practical examples of what to say. I felt genuinely moved as I imagined the child who had wanted to rip the pages from his book and could not deny that your suggestion would have made him think twice about that reaction.

    You have done an excellent job of showcasing your skills in this article.

  2. Gregory on said:

    Really love the reframing explanations. Great article.

  3. Leanne Harwood on said:

    A fabulous article! So very true. I would just add, don’t show fear. I think to some extent children (like animals) are more in tune with your inner psyche and if you go in unsure and afraid they will sense it and metaphorically attack!

  4. Love the stating of the issue and solutions to overcoming them. Great article.

  5. Mechel Dixon on said:

    Love the article. Very useful tools and advice to work with.

  6. Tashna on said:

    Good approaches

  7. Sharon on said:

    excellent suggestions/advise. More informed.

  8. Great advice on calming and working out situations with children. Very useful in the line of work I’m in.

  9. Neetal on said:

    Great advice!

  10. Winnifred Grant on said:

    Great articles. Appropriate for kids.You are very talented.

  11. Mrs Thomas on said:

    It’s a joy to see someone so child centred.

    It takes courage to advocate doing things differently.

    Keep working to lift up our children.

  12. ricardo on said:


  13. Hortense on said:

    Very interesting article, great teaching ✨

  14. Hortense on said:

    Amazing article, very inspirational young lady continue to motivate others.

  15. Great tool

  16. Kimeshia on said:

    Great job